Thoughts On The Celtics

The Celtics resurgence in the second half of the season has generated a lot of discussion about the team, and what their ceiling is this season, as well as what the future holds.

I maintain that a reasonable expectation for the team is a strong showing in the second round. That doesn’t mean a win in the second round, but instead, just as I said, a strong showing.


Anything above and beyond that has to be considered house money. Can they go beyond the second round? It’s possible, but a lot of things would have to break in their favor to make it happen.

I’ve heard some media folks say that they’re not going “all-in” on this Celtics team until they win the second round. (That was Andy Gresh this morning, and I think I’ve heard Glenn Ordway express similar thoughts)  I’m not sure what that means. They’re not going to say this team can go all the way until they beat Miami or Chicago? They’re not going to think this is a good team until they win that second round? Or they’re not worthy of following until that point?

It’s my opinion that you need to throw in behind this team right now, because this is a special group that won’t be around much longer.

There is a lot to like about this team. Enjoy them while you have them.

Much of the Celtics talk has revolved around Avery Bradley and Ray Allen. Bradley has excited fans with his energy, athleticism and defense. Sports radio hosts harp on his ball-handling. Michael Felger, Gresh, Scott Zolak and Ordway have all been down on the kid for his ball-handling. Most of those same people also believe that Ray Allen needs to be back in the starting lineup.

Is it too much of a stretch to say that having Bradley in the starting lineup is the perfect spot for him because Rondo is on the court with him, and he doesn’t have to worry at all about handing the ball? He can just concentrate on his defense, and cutting without the ball on offense.

If you put Bradley back on the bench, he’s going to play less with Rondo, and when he’s out there with Keyon Dooling, he’s going to have to bring the ball up more. Having Dooling and Allen as your bench backcourt gives you two savvy veterans and the ball handling isn’t much of an issue. Neither has a great handle, but both are adequate.

I say keep Bradley right where he is.

A mild surprise for me as of late has been Sasha Pavlovic. I was not impressed with him at all last year, and scratched my head at bringing him back this season. However, since Mickael Pietrus went down, and while Ray Allen was out, he showed what he can bring to a team. He doesn’t make many mistakes, he plays pretty tough defense, and he can knock down the occasional three pointer. He’s a solid guy to have at the end of the bench, because he can come in during an emergency and not hurt you.I actually could say much of the same about Pietrus. I wasn’t a fan of his in his days with Golden State and Orlando but have come to appreciate what he brings to a team now that he is here.

When the current Celtics team meets its end in the postseason it will be because of their frontcourt. While Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass have both provided more production that you could’ve hoped for, the depth falls off precipitously after that. Greg Stiemsma has shown that he belongs in the NBA, but he’s still very raw. Ryan Hollins can get out and run, and when Rondo is on the court with him, good things can happen. He doesn’t rebound though. I have hopes for JaJuan Johnson as a player, but he’s too thin and not ready right now to be a contributor.

Because of that lack of depth in the frontcourt, Doc Rivers has employed a small lineup at times which sees Paul Pierce playing power forward. Against a team like Miami, that lineup could be effective and cause problems when you’ve also got Rondo, Bradley, Allen and KG on the floor. Against a team like Chicago, which has multiple bigs, it would not be so effective.

However the season ends, the more this year has gone on, the more convinced I am that KG comes back next year. (Sorry Ordway. I know you guaranteed he won’t be back here next year.) I’m also leaning more and more towards Allen not coming back. Depending on the money that KG wants, the Celtics could add a nice piece or two this offseason and be a better team next season.

It wouldn’t be the most popular move, but I can see Danny Ainge making a run at restricted free agent Roy Hibbert in the offseason. He gives that big body next to KG and even with his obvious limitations, he is one of the better centers in the NBA right now. I think he’d be even better playing with the likes of Garnett and Rondo. Bring back Bass and Jeff Green, and sign a decent shooting guard, and you’ve got a pretty good team next year:

PG Rondo, Open, Moore
SG Bradley, Open, Pietrus
SF Pierce, Green, Open
PF Garnett, Bass, Johnson
C Hibbert, Stiemsma, Hollins

I’d still be looking for a rebounding forward/center type (Reggie Evans? I’d also consider Chris Wilcox again.) But that’s a roster that can compete with almost anyone. Let’s not also forget that there are likely two first round picks and two second round picks (The Celtics have Milwaukee’s second round pick from the Dooling trade.) in what is said to be a deep draft to add into this mix.

The Celtics will have cap space in which not only to sign players, but also to make trades with, as well as those four draft picks with which to work this offseason.

Danny Ainge took a whole lot of criticism from the sports radio/TV people after he didn’t make a move at the trading deadline, and did not deal away his stars for draft picks or younger players. I think in short-term, he has been proven correct for standing pat, and I think he will also be proven correct in the long-term.

I’m not convinced that we’re seeing the last days of the Celtics as a contender. We know Danny Ainge isn’t afraid to make bold moves. With a couple of pieces, I can see next year’s Celtics being a better team than this year.

After so many down years with the Celtics, I’m not eager to drop all the way to the bottom and start over. The good news is, I don’t think they have to.

  • Showtime

    Great analysis, Bruce.  I fully agree that the championship “window” need not be closed after this season, and that we should actually try to enjoy this run with this very likeable team.  I legitimately enjoy rooting for this particular team - why would I wait to see if they can “prove it to me” by surviving the second round?  Isn’t half the fun actually rooting for them DURING the second round to pull off an upset?  An article like this is exactly why I love your website. 

  • bsmfan

    I saw the Miami team that really wanted a win against OKC; likewise, OKC really wanted a statement win over Miami. OKC played their hearts out but Miami closed it down in that way you see them sometimes dominate games.

    I watch last night and the Celtics clearly wanted this more than Miami did. I’d say the same about the Spurs when we couldn’t close them out but the Celtics gave their best and didn’t mail it in like the last Bulls game.

    I know this is a lockout shortened season, but is anyone feeling this way? If I had to pure sure money on two clubs, it’d be OKC/SAS right now.

    And, consider that CHB wrote, but interesting comments here (I figure Bruce will have this in one of his next posts):

    “Larry called me yesterday,’’
    Francona said Tuesday. “I was in a phone store in Arizona. I had three
    people standing around me. I was at a little bit of a disadvantage. He
    got a little perturbed at me, telling me I was being unfair to them. I
    called him back last night and left him a message. He called me back and
    we ended up getting into an argument. I just feel like someone in the
    organization went out of their way to hurt me and the more we talked I
    realized we’re just not on the same wavelength. They’re probably better
    off going forth and leaving me out of it.’’“I
    thought there was some uncertainty as to whether he had actually gotten
    the invitation,’’ said Lucchino. “He’s going to be here on the 22d for
    the Sunday night game so I called him and invited him and he declined.
    It was a sincere invitation for him to come back. He has an exalted
    place in our history and we were hoping it would be convenient and
    comfortable for him to come back and we were hoping it would be.’

    http://www.boston.com/sports/baseball/redsox/articles/2012/04/11/terry_francona_wants_no_part_of_fenways_celebration/

    —-

    Personally, I think it’s his choice to go or not go and respect it either way. Still, inviting him back this soon.. isn’t that like when your ex dumps you, clearly had someone on the side before this, engaged next week and she sends you an invite to the wedding 3 months later?

    I’m sure they had to invite him but Tito could have said he was required for ESPN duties here.

    • bsmfan

       Listening to D+C now. Beyond the two games last night, this is clearly going to be a major talking point today (the article).

      To add on to this, I should have pasted this on page 2:

      “Until I’m more comfortable with some
      answers on what happened at the end of the year, I don’t want to have
      much to do with the organization and that’s a shame,’’ Francona said
      Tuesday. “With all the good things that were accomplished, I just feel
      pretty strongly about that.
      “It
      was pretty raw at the end of the year. I think I’ve done a pretty good
      job of moving on from that. At the same time, I’m never going to forget
      that. For me to go back and start waving and hugging, I’m just not
      comfortable doing that. I made it pretty clear to John Henry. When I
      told Larry that, he said, ‘Well, I haven’t talked to John about it.’ I
      said, well then how [expletive] important could it be?”Adding to this, as it’s now more than just a brief mention, a caller was questioning his motives beyond the bad blood, and John Dennis says, “Well, I know it definitely wasn’t management” (not exactly but something to this). Jerry asked how he knew, and he responded with, “Who had something to gain?”

    • bsmfan

       Listening to D+C now. Beyond the two games last night, this is clearly going to be a major talking point today (the article).

      To add on to this, I should have pasted this on page 2:

      “Until I’m more comfortable with some
      answers on what happened at the end of the year, I don’t want to have
      much to do with the organization and that’s a shame,’’ Francona said
      Tuesday. “With all the good things that were accomplished, I just feel
      pretty strongly about that.
      “It
      was pretty raw at the end of the year. I think I’ve done a pretty good
      job of moving on from that. At the same time, I’m never going to forget
      that. For me to go back and start waving and hugging, I’m just not
      comfortable doing that. I made it pretty clear to John Henry. When I
      told Larry that, he said, ‘Well, I haven’t talked to John about it.’ I
      said, well then how [expletive] important could it be?”Adding to this, as it’s now more than just a brief mention, a caller was questioning his motives beyond the bad blood, and John Dennis says, “Well, I know it definitely wasn’t management” (not exactly but something to this). Jerry asked how he knew, and he responded with, “Who had something to gain?”

  • bsmfan

    And, Chad Finn might be gunning for your job, Bruce:

    @GlobeChadFinn:twitter Think I’m going to start keeping track of
    the hysterical comments made on these sports studio shows. Could make
    for some fun summer column.

    https://twitter.com/#!/GlobeChadFinn/status/189910513612881921

  • Frank

    Right there with you Bruce. A month ago there was not much to look forward to other than an early playoff exit. Now suddenly the Celtics look like they could do some damage in the playoffs, and could be good again next year. What about bringing back Al Jefferson next year? A starting 5 of Rondo, Bradley, Pierce, KG, and Big Al, with Ray and Bass coming off the bench would be great. I think Danny’s a lot closer to another championship team than people realize.

    • Steve

      Al’s still under contract next year although I like the idea

      • Frank

        Saw that after I posted, “good show prep,” Maybe Utah would be willing to deal him in the offseason if they think he won’t resign. Mini D. Howard situation.

        • bsmfan

          Does any team with a good locker room/front office want D12 right now? Seriously

  • Classless

    The Celtics run begins and ends with KG. He’s always been the anchor of this team and he’s even more noticeable now that he’s playing his best ball since 2008. Once he leaves, this team will fall back into the middle class unless Rondo jumps into superstardom. That’s how special KG is.

  • Lou from accounting

    Excellent post, Bruce. I also do not think it will go in the dumpster after this season.

  • bsmfan

    Something tells me that if you’re a NBA player, even slightly above the vet minimum, you’re not living in the projects.

    It still makes me wonder why teams don’t want to go here. LA? Sure. Dallas? Sure. NY? Sure. Once you weed out the horrible franchises and “not bad cities to live in” Boston is still top10.

    Doc got some COTY (not kidding) nods this morning with what he’s done.